13 February 2007 | horn-5
Dumb, Dumb and Dumber
The 22 films in the Texas Rangers series that cousins Arthur Alexander and Alfred Stern produced for Producers Releasing Corporation distribution rank, by any measurement, as the worse continuing-character-series made by anybody, anywhere, anytime in any genre...with Spaghetti Westerns the sole exception.
The first fourteen films in the series had Dave O'Brien, Jim Newill and Guy Wilkerson as the trio of Rangers, and the last eight starred Tex Ritter, Dave O'Brien and Guy Wilkerson, although the Ranger Trio concept was overlooked in some of those, with O'Brien and Wilkerson as a pair of Rangers and Ritter not a member of the Rangers. But Ritter had the white horse, top billing and he was the lead whether he was a Ranger or not.
ENEMY OF THE LAW was the 20th film in the overall series (forget what Movie Connections may say) and the sixth entry of the Ritter-O'Brien films. Director Harry Fraser dusted off...uh...in this case...washed off and modified his original story from 1940's LIGHTNING STRIKES WEST (Ken Maynard)he directed for brothers Max and Arthur Alexander and came up with this: Charley Gray (Charles King) is about to be released from the state penitentiary after serving a long term for the robbery of a government gold shipment. The gold was never recovered, so Ed Cassidy (Chief of the Rangers, no less) has Ranger Panhandle Perkins (Guy Wilkerson) planted in the prison as Charley's cell-mate in the hopes Charley will tell him where the loot is buried. Charley has a map of the location but is afraid it may be discovered---he's had it ever since he has been there but just now beginning to worry about it being discovered---so, while Panhandle is asleep, he draws a copy of it on the sole of Panhandle's foot. I forget which foot. Charley then destroys the map so, being none too bright to begin with and having both short-term and long-term memory retention problems, Charley is now going to have to adopt Panhandle as a sidekick. (I get parts of this one confused with "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.") So, upon their release from prison, Charley makes Panhandle accompany him back to the town where the rest of the hold-up gang is holed up. They go to the saloon owned by Steve Martin (Jack Ingram), who is also interested in knowing where the loot is buried as he has a vested interest because he was one of the members of the hold-up gang, all of whom escaped except Charley, but Charley was the one who buried the loot before he was captured. But Charley has no intentions of divulging the location of the gold until he has some personal grooming taken care of...namely the removal of a scar. Old Doc Carey (Karl Hackett) drops by and removes Charley's shameful scar and his reward is getting killed dead by Charley. The latter, making his newly-found best friend Panhandle accompany him, then hotfoots it back to the saloon where nearly everybody in the short cast---the Alexander brothers and cousin Stern were never known to over-populate a cast---are gathered. Tex Haines (Tex Ritter) has just sung a song to dance-hall hostess Ruby Martin (Kay Hughes) and her husband Steve isn't all that happy about some stranger singing songs to his wife; and Ranger Dave Wyatt (Dave O'Brien) is posing as a tramp and being more than a little bit inquisitive for the average barfly, unlike the resident Barfly (Jack Evans)who is just an everyday mind-his-own-business Barfly. Once he gets there, Charley can't wait to tell somebody he has killed the doctor but Tex and Dave overhear this and attempt to arrest Charley and a PRC short-cast mêlée breaks out, and Charley gets away and takes Panhandle with him to a hideout cabin. Once there, Panhandle, as he was often prone to do, throws a monkey-wrench into the plot. Well, actually, he advances the plot but this advancement gives Charley a problem. Charley won't allow Panhandle to indulge in feet-washing but Panhandle does manage to change his socks. (Panhandle Perkins having a second pair of socks is totally unexpected by us devotees of this series.) Panhadle tosses his old socks out the window. Wandering tramp (Ben Corbett) comes along and decides that Panhandle's old dirty socks are better than what he has, so he takes them. Meanwhile, back in the shack, Charley notices that the map is no longer on the sole of Panhandle's foot---whichever one it was that he drew the map on---and concludes it has rubbed off onto the discarded socks...or, to be precise, the sock that was on whichever foot that he drew the map on. Things really move along after this as Charlie gets the map-sock (is that a keyword) back from Ben and we learn that the loot is buried under Martin's Saloon---we did mention that Charley had a memory problem---and soon roars to a semi-mêlée climax.
Beats the heck out of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", though. Especially in the directing, editing and writing departments.